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Muslim Student Find FBI’s GPS Device On His Car

8 October 2010 General One Comment Email This Post Email This Post

A photo of the tracking device found by Yasir Afifi, a California college student. The device was reclaimed by the FBI, which has not said why it was tracking him.

By Jesse Emspak

A California college student took his car into the shop and found a strange device stuck to the underside of the car. Worried about what it might be, he posted pictures of it on the Internet.

The FBI came calling, and told the student, Yasir Afifi, they were following him. They also asked for their tracking device back. The agency has yet to say exactly why they were tracking Afifi, who had posted pictures of the device on Reddit.com.

Zahra Billoo, an attorney at the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American Islamic relations, said the group is deciding whether any legal action can be taken on Afifi’s behalf. She said CAIR is aware of two similar cases in Ohio.

Attaching a tracking device to a car was found to be legal in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit, on the theory that a parked car has no expectation of privacy, even if it is in the driveway of a private residence. The D.C. Circuit came to a different conclusion in a similar case, which means there is a real possibility that use of GPS technologies will be before the Supreme Court in the future.

Several news outlets reported Afifi knows he is on a Federal watchlist. He has two brothers in Egypt, and lived there for five years. His father, Aladdin Afifi, was head of the Muslim Community Association in California. Billoo noted that it runs one of the largest Mosques in the state and has done so for many years. Aladdin Afifi died in 2009. There is no evidence that Afifi is connected to any radical groups.

The device itself is manufactured by Cobham plc, a U.K. based maker of military technologies such as avionics. Some 60% of the company’s revenue comes from the U.S. and 77% is from the defense industry. The model of GPS tracking device used on Afifi”s car appears to send a signal over the cellular network to a central server, though Cobham would not confirm this.

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